I wait by Julia Margaret Cameron

I wait by Julia Margaret Cameron

I wait
Collection of the J. Paul Getty Museum

Sisters Rachel and Laura Gurney were frequently models for their Aunt Julia. The figure of the angel is one which Cameron returns to again and again. In “I Wait” the angel is symbolic of the yearning to fly yet sadness in the knowledge of being earthbound. It is the wish to unite the heavens and the earth.

Julia Margaret Cameron 1815-1879

Julia Margaret Cameron
The Pre-Raphaelites, Pictorialism
Born: 11 June 1815, Calcutta, British India
Nationality: British
Died: 26 January 1879, Kalutara, British Ceylon

Cameron was a photographer is one of the most important portraitists of the 19th century. She is best known for her use of soft-focus close-ups of famous Victorian men and women, illustrative pictures depicting characters from mythology, Christianity, and literature, and sensitive portraits of both adults and children

James Collinson

James Collinson

Artist: James Collinson
Born: 9 May 1825, Mansfield, England
Movement: Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood
Died: 24 January 1881, London, UK

James Collinson was a painter and a member of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood from 1848 to 1850.

The Holy Family, 1878, oil on canvas.

Collinson was in Nottinghamshire and was the son of a bookseller. He was a member of the Royal Academy Schools and was a fellow student of Holman Hunt and Dante Gabriel Rossetti.

Collinson was a devout Christian and was attracted to the devotional and high church aspects of Pre-Raphaelitism. A convert to Catholicism, he returned to high Anglicanism to marry Christina Rossetti. His conscience forced his return to Catholicism and the break-up of the engagement. Collinson resigned from the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood in the belief that it was against the Christian religion following the controversy and accusations of blasphemy that followed the exhibition of Millais’ painting Christ in the House of his Parents.

The Sisters, 1848-50, oil on canvas

During his Pre-Raphaelite period, Collinson contributed a long devotional poem to The Germ and produced a sizeable number of religious works, including The Renunciation of St Elizabeth of Hungary. After his resignation from the Brotherhood he trained for the priesthood at a Jesuit seminary college, he did not complete his studies. In 1858 he married Eliza Wheeler and returned to his artistic career and produced secular genre work including To Let and For Sale, both of which suggested, in a light-hearted manner, pretty women in situations of moral temptation. In the latter part of his life he lived in Brittainy, where he painted The Holy Family. He died in 1881,

©JG Farmer 2019

William Morris

William Morris

Artist: William Morris
Born: 24 March 1834, Essex, England
Nationality: English
Movement: Pre-Raphaelite
Died: 3 October 1896, Middlesex, UK

William Morris was a textile designer, poet, novelist, translator, and social activist. Associated with the British Arts and Crafts Movement he was a major contributor to the revival of traditional textile arts and methods of production. His poetic work and novels formed part of the then new genre of fantasy and he played a significant role in the early socialist movement in Britain.

La belle Iseult 1858, oil on canvas. Currently housed in the Tate Collection

Born in Walthamstow, Essex to a wealthy middle-class family Morris became strongly influenced by medievalism while reading Classics at Oxford University where he joined the Birmingham Set. After university he trained as an architect and married Jane Burden. He developed close friendships with Pre-Raphaelite artists Bure-Jones and Dante Gabriel Rossetti and Neo-Gothic architect Phillip Webb. He founded the firm Morris, Marshall, Faulkner & Co with Burne-Jones, Rossetti, Webb and others in 1861. The firm profoundly influenced interior décor with its tapestries, wallpaper, fabrics, furniture and stained glass throughout the Victorian era. The company was renamed Morris & Co in 1875 when Morris took control of the firm.

From 1871 Morris was greatly influenced by visits to Iceland and produced a series of English translations of Icelandic Sagas. He also founded the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings which campaigned against the damage caused by architectural restoration. He was a Marxist and greatly influenced by anarchism and became a committed socialist activist and founded the Socialist League in 1884.

Design for Windrush, 1883, printed textile

As one of the most significant cultural figures of Victorian Britain, Morris was best known for his poetry during in his lifetime. His contribution to design was only fully recognised after his death in 1896 with the founding of the William Morris Society in 1955 and multiple biographies and studies of his work being published.

Morris was born into a wealthy middle-class family. He was home educated until the age of 9 when he was sent to preparatory school as a boarder. An experience Morris intensely disliked. His father died in 1847 leaving the family reliant on the income of the copper mines at Devon Great Consols. Nonetheless, the young Morris began his studies at Marlborough College in 1948 where he became fascinated by the prehistoric sites of Wiltshire, such as Avebury and Silbury Hill. He was removed from Marlborough and privately tutored at Forest School. He entered Exeter College, Oxford University in 1852 to read Classics. It was whilst at Oxford he developed an interest in Medieval history and architecture.

The Vision of the Holy Grail, 1890, tapestry. Currently housed in the Birmingham Museums and Art Galleries Collection

Morris’ interest in Medieval history tied in with the growing Medievalist movement in the UK, a form of Romanticism that rejected many of the values of Victorian capitalist industrialism. The Middle Ages represented strong chivalric values and a pre-capitalist sense of community which were perceived as corrective to the social problems of Victorian Britain. It was whilst at university Morris met Edward Burne-Jones, both being interested in Anglo-Catholicism and Arthurianism they became lifelong friends and collaborators. It was through Burne-Jones that Morris became a member of the Birmingham Set.

Heavily influenced by the writings of the art critic John Ruskin Morris adopted philosophy of rejecting the tawdry industrial manufacture of decorative arts and architecture in favour of a return to hand-craftmanship and raising the status of artisans to artists without hierarchy of artistic mediums.

In 1856, Morris graduated with a BA and took an apprenticeship with the Oxford based Neo-Gothic architect George Edmund Street. He was focused on architectural drawing, under the supervision of Philip Webb, and was rapidly relocated to Street’s London office.

Morris became increasingly enthralled by the Medievalist depictions of idyllic rural that appeared in the Pre-Raphaelite paintings, artworks he spent large sums of money in acquiring. Burne-Jones, now an apprentice under the Pre-Raphaelite painter Dante Gabriel Rossetti, shared his interest. The trio became close friends and it is through Rossetti that Morris was introduced to the poet Robert Browning and the artists Arthur Hughes, Thomas Woolner and Ford Madox Brown.

Panel of Ceramic Tiles, 1883

In 1861, Morris founded the decorative arts company Morris, Marshall, Faulkner & Co. The other partners included Burne-Jones, Rossetti, Webb, and Ford Madox-Brown. Referred to as the Firm they were intent on adopting Ruskin’s ideas of reforming British attitudes to production while reinstating decoration as a fine art. Although within the remit of Neo-Gothic design, the Firm differed from the Neo-Gothic architects that only included element of Gothic features in their modern style of building; instead the Firm’s intent was to return to Medieval methods completely. Despite the Firm’s ethos of anti-elitism, it soon became popular with the bourgeoisie. Morris abandoned painting, recognising his work lacked movement; none of his paintings are dated later than 1862. Instead he focused on design.

Peacock and Dragon, 1878, woven wool furnishing fabrics

In the early 1890s Morris’s health began to fail and he became increasingly ill. By 1896 he was almost completely invalid, and he died of tuberculosis on 4 October 1896 and he is buried in the churchyard of St. Georges Church, Kelmscott, Oxfordshire, UK.

©JG Farmer 2019

Edward Burne-Jones

Edward Burne-Jones

Artist: Sir Edward Coley Burne-Jones, 1st Baronet
Born: 28 August 1833, Birmingham, UK
Nationality: English
Movement: Pre-Raphaelite
Died: 17 June 1898, London, UK

Sir Edward Coley Burne-Jones was an artist and designer associated with the latter phases of the Pre-Raphaelite movement. He worked closely with William Morris as a founding partner in Morris Marshall, Faulkner and Co. Burne-Jones is particularly noted for his close involvement in the rejuvenation of the traditional art of stained glass. His early paintings reveal the inspiration of Dante Gabriel Rossetti, but by the 1860s Burne-Jones was discovering his own voice and style. In 1877 he exhibited eight oil paintings at the new rival for the Royal Academy, the Grosvenor Gallery and was taken up as the new star of the Aesthetic Movement. Burne-Jones also worked in a variety of crafts including ceramic tile design, jewellery, mosaics and tapestries.

Burne-Jones was the son of Edward Richard Jones, a frame maker, and Elizabeth Coley Jones, who died a few days after his birth. He was raised by his father and the family housekeeper. He attended King Edward VI Grammar School, Birmingham followed by the Birmingham School of Art before studying at Exeter College, Oxford. It was whilst at Oxford he became friends with William Morris due to their mutual interest in poetry. Both Burne-Jones and Morris were influenced by the work of Dante Gabriel Rossetti and met him when they recruited him as a contributor to their Oxford and Cambridge Magazine which Morris founded in 1856.

After leaving Oxford, Burne-Jones’ early works were clearly tinged by the influence of Rossetti, but clearly different to the master’s style with their more facile imagery. His pen-and-ink drawing on vellum were exquisitely finished and a clear display of Burne-Jones’ own mastery.

In 1861, Morris founded the decorative arts firm Morris, Marshall, Faulkner & Co with Burne-Jones as a partner. The firm’s prospectus offered carvings, stained glass, metal-work, paper-hangings, printed fabrics and carpets. From the beginning the decoration of churches was a major part of the business.

In 1864 Burne-Jones was elected am associate of the Old Water-Colour Society and exhibited The Merciful Night, amongst other works, which revealed the full ripeness of his artistic personality. Over the next six year he exhibited a series of fine watercolours at the same gallery. In 1866 he was commissioned to paint Maria Zamback in Cupid finding Psyche, an introduction which led to their tragic affair. The following year Burne-Jones resigned his membership due to the controversy over his painting Phyllis and Demophoӧn. The suggestion of female sexual assertiveness offended Victorian sensitivities. Burne-Jones was asked to adjust the painting, instead he removed it from the exhibition and himself from the society.

From 1870 to 1877 Burne-Jones only exhibited two water-colours at the Dudley Gallery one of which, the beautiful Love among the Ruins, was destroyed by a cleaner who assumed it was an oil painting some 20 years later.

Burne-Jones’ paintings were part of the evolving movement of Aestheticism of the 1860s through the 1880s. The concept that art should be valued as an object of beauty engaging a sensual response from the viewer rather than a story with implicit morality.

In 1896, devastated at the death of William Morris, Burne-Jones’ health went into decline. In 1898, after a severe bout of influenza he suffered a heart attack and died on 17 June 1898, London, UK. He is buried in the churchyard of St. Margaret’s Church, Rottingdean.

Fair Rosamund and Queen Eleanor (1861, ink, water-colour, gouache on paper)

Fair Rosamund and Queen Eleanor (1861, ink, water-colour, gouache on paper). Burne-Jones featured the Fair Rosamund in his paintings several times during the 1860s. The legendary tale of Rosamund, the mistress of King Henry II, murdered by Queen Eleanor in the elaborate hiding place created by the king inspired by the dramatic verse by Swinburne. It is also commonly assumed that Rosamund was buried at Godstowe, which the artist visited whilst a student at Oxford.

The painting is currently housed by Yale Center for British Art, Connecticut, USA

Temperantia (1872, Water-colour)

Temperantia (1872, Water-colour) is a depiction of a woman pouring water on the flames of excess. It is the last painting by Burne-Jones of Maria Zambaco, his model and lover and symbolizes the end of their relationship with Maria dowsing the flames of their passion.

The painting is currently housed in a private collection.

Cupid and Psyche (1870, water-colour, pastel, gouache on paper and linen)

Cupid and Psyche (1870, water-colour, pastel, gouache on paper and linen) is inspired by the poem The Earthly Paradise by William Morris. The narrative of Cupid and Psyche was a favourite of Burne-Jones and inspired many of his works over a period of 30 years. The model for Psyche was Maria Zambaco and marks the beginning of Burne-Jones’ desire for his model and muse.

The painting is housed by the Yale Center for British Art, Connecticut, USA

Merlin and Nimue (1861, water-colour and ink on paper)

Merlin and Nimue (1861, water-colour and ink on paper) was inspired by Sir Thomas Malory’s translation of a French medieval poem, Le Morte d’Arthur. Burne-Jones found the text in a bookshop in Birmingham and returned to it for inspiration again and again.

The painting is currently located at the V&A, London, UK.

Wedding of Sir Tristram (1862/3, Stained Glass)

Wedding of Sir Tristram (1862/3, Stained Glass) was originally designed for the Music Room od Harden Grange, Yorkshire, UK and formed part of series of thirteen panel commission with Morris, Marshall, Faulkner and Co. The series depicts scenes from the story of Sir Tristram and la Belle Isoude from Sir Thomas Malory’s Morte d’Arthur.

It is currently located at the Laing Art Gallery, Newcastle, UK

Rossetti and the Women who Loved Him

Dante Gabriel Rossetti

Artist: Dante Gabriel Rossetti
Born: 12 May 1828, London, UK
Nationality: British
Movement: Pre-Raphaelite
Died: 9 April 1882, Kent, UK

Gabriel Charles Dante Rossetti, known as Dante Gabriel Rossetti, was a painter, illustrator, poet and translator. He was a founding member of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, along with William Holman Hunt and John Everett Millais. Rossetti also was the main inspiration for a second generation of Pre-Raphaelite influenced artists and poets such as William Morris and Edward Burne-Jones. Characterised by its sensuality and medieval revivalism Rossetti’s art was a notable influence on the European Symbolists and the Aesthetic movement. His personal life was closely connected to his work, especially in his relationship with his muses and models Jane Morris, Elizabeth Siddal and Fanny Cornforth.

The son of Italian scholar Gabriele Pasquale Giuseppe Rossetti and Frances Mary Lavinià Polidori. Known as Gabriel to his friends and family, he used the name Dante professionally in honour of Dante Alighieri. His siblings were the poet Christina Rossetti, the critic William Michael Rossetti and the author Maria Francesca Rossetti,

Although their father was a Roman Catholic the Rossetti children were raised and educated in their mother’s Anglian religion. Rossetti was home educated before attending King’s College School where he studied the Bible along with Shakespeare, Dickens, Sir Walter Scott and Lord Byron. Rossetti was described as an articulate, self-possessed, charismatic, passionate, poetic but feckless youth. Like his brother and sisters he aspired to be a poet as well as a painter. He studied Medieval Italian art before attending Henry Sass; Drawing Academy. He enrolled in the Antique School of the Royal Academy before studying under Ford Madox Brown who remained a close friend thought Rossetti’s life.

Rossetti’s first major oil paintings demonstrate the early Pre-Raphaelite realist qualities. Girlhood of Mary Virgin, exhibited in 1849, was exemplary of Rossetti’s technique of painted oils with watercolour consistency. His second painting, Ecce Ancilla Domini, exhibited in 1850 received heavy criticism in line with the increasingly hysterical reaction to Pre-Raphaelitism. Rossetti turned to watercolours which could be sold privately and rarely exhibited his work.

In 1850 Elizabeth Sidal, an important model for the painters of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, and over the next decade she became his muse, pupil and passion. They were married in 1860.

From his work on translating Italian poetry into English including Alighirei’s La Vita Nuova inspired his art during the 1950’s. Similar to medieval illuminations he developed painting watercolour pigments mixed with gum to give rich effects in a painting.

The practice of the Pre-Raphaelites was to integrate literature with their art with many pieces making literary references. Rossetti considered the ornamentation of Victorian gift books to be gaudy and of bad taste and sort to refine bindings and illustrations with the Aesthetic Movement’s principles. He was a collaborating designer and illustrator with his sister, Christina, on Goblin Market and The Prince’s Progress. Illustrations in the Pre-Raphaelite philosophy do not simply refer to the text but are part of the whole.
From 1860 Rossetti returned to oil painting but instead of the intense medieval compositions his work consisted of powerful close-up portrayals of women. His depictions of women were obsessive and stylised. His lover, fanny Cornforth, he portrayed as the epitome of eroticism and Jane Morris the ethereal goddess.

After the death of his wife, Elizabeth Siddal in 1862 Rossetti moved to Cheyne Walk, Chelsea where he lived for 20 years, surrounding self with extravagance in furnishings and exotic animals. He also maintained a home for Fanny Cornforth nearby.

Towards the end of his life Rossetti’s mental health declined into a morbid state of depression, worsened by his addiction to chloral hydrate and his last years at Cheyne Walk were that of a recluse.

Rossetti died at Easter 18812. He had gone to a friend’s country house to recover. His health had been destroyed by his drug addiction and his long-term battle with Bright’s Disease. He is interred at All Saints churchyard at Birchington-on-Sea, Kent, UK.

The Childhood of Mary Virgin; Dante Gabriel Rossetti (1849, oil on canvas)

The Childhood of Mary Virgin (1849, oil on canvas) was first exhibited at the Hyde Park Corner Gallery ‘Free Exhibition’.

The painting a young Mary embroidering a lily, a symbol of purity, under the guidance of her mother, Anne. In the background her father, Joachim, is pruning a vine, symbolic of the coming of Christ, and as a symbol of Christ’s Passion, the vine is in a cross figure.

The painting is currently housed by the Tate Britain, London, UK

Ecce Ancilla Domini by Dante Gabriel Rossetti (1850, oil on canvas)

Ecce Ancilla Domini (1850, oil on canvas) is inspired by the work of the Renaissance artists such as Fra Angelico and Botticelli. It was exhibited at National Institution in 1850 but was heavily criticised for it’s didacticism.

The Latin title is a quotation from the Vulgate text of the first chapter of the Gospel of St Luke that describes the Annunciation. The colour range is deliberately limited and white, a symbol of purity, dominates. Blue is often associated with Mary and is also symbolic of heaven, whilst red symbolizes the blood of Christ.

The painting is currently located at the Tate Britain, London, UK

Found by Dante Gabriel Rossetti (1881, oil on canvas)

Found (1881, oil on canvas) was unfinished at the time of Rossetti’s death.

The painting is the artist’s only treatment in oil of the then contemporary moral subject of urban prostitution. Rossetti considered the piece to be one of his most important, returning to from its start in the 1850’s until the last year of his life.

The presence of the calf goes some way to explain why the farmer has travelled to the town, but it carries a deeper symbolic resonance in its situation of an innocent creature trapped and on its way to be sold that parallels that of the woman and invites the viewer to question her state of mind.

The painting is currently housed by Delaware Art Museum, Delaware, USA

Helen of Troy by Dante Gabriel Rossetti (1863, oil on panel)

Helen of Troy (1863, oil on panel) brought together Rossetti’s ideas of classical poetry and literature.

Helen of Troy, modeled by Annie Miller, is the most beautiful woman in the world but is the adulterous lover of Paris, the Trojan prince. Symbolically she points to a firebrand, a token of her lover, as the city of Troy burns in the background. A quote from the Agamemnon of Aeschylus describes Helen as ‘destroyer of ships, destroyer of men, destroyer of cities.

The painting is currently located at Kunst Halle Hamburg, Germany

Lady Lilith by Dante Gabriel Rossetti (1868, gouache and watercolour on paper)

Lady Lilith (1868, gouache and watercolour on paper) is a portrait, originally modeled by Fanny Cornforth but altered by Rossetti to show Alexa Wilding.

Lady Lilith is the first wife of Adam and associated with the seduction of men and the murder of children. The white roses resonate the cold, sensuous love of Lilith and act as a reflection to the traditional idea that roses only blushed and became red when they met Eve.

The painting is housed by Delaware Art Museum, Delaware, USA

Pharaoh’s Handmaidens by John Collier

Pharaoh's Handmaidens

Title: Pharaoh’s Handmaidens
Date: 1883
Movement: Pre-Raphaelite
Artist: The Honourable John Maler Collier
1850 – 1934


John Maler Collier was a leading artist and author. He was one of the m0st noted portrait painters of his time. From 1875 he studied at the Munich Academy. Both his marriages were to the daughters of Thomas Huxley, President of the Royal Society. His first wife died in Paris after the birth of their only daughter. Two years later he married her sister and they had a son and daughter. Their son, Sir Laurence Collier, went on to become the British Ambassador to Norway.

The Pharaoh’s Handmaidens is an oil on canvas painting. It is currently housed in a private collection.